The European Travel Commission (ETC) reported a 5.1% increase in Chinese arrivals to EU destinations in 2018, marking a successful end to the EU-China Tourism Year (ECTY). Hungary proved one of the fastest-growing destinations for Chinese visitors.
The ECTY was agreed in 2016 by the Chinese Prime Minister and the President of the European Commission, with the ETC playing a key role, says a press release sent to the Budapest Business Journal. It describes the program as “a unique opportunity to attract more Chinese travelers off the beaten path, stimulate economic cooperation in the tourism sector, and give extra impetus to EU-China visa facilitation and air connectivity.”
The ETC rolled out an 18-month program of activities, looking to increase the appetite of Chinese tourists to visit European destinations. One of the most important elements of the program was a major promotional campaign at the biggest Chinese online travel agencies, as well as on social media platforms.
The campaign was conducted in a way that promoted Europe’s lesser-known touristic assets. The ETC developed “how-to” videos along with custom-made digital travel guides. Chinese tourists were also aided with a WeChat Mini-Program providing practical information on visa applications, emergency information and translation facilities, facilitating navigation in European destinations for Chinese tourists. In total, the EU marketing materials reached over 450 million views by potential Chinese travelers.
Additionally, the ETC hosted 200 Chinese tour operators on trans-European familiarization trips in 22 EU countries, ensuring they could experience European destinations first-hand, making them well-placed to make recommendations for Chinese guests. It also coordinated the participation of some 75 European destinations and tourism businesses at four major travel trade shows in China.
Together with the ETOA European tourism association, the ETC also co-organized seven matchmaking workshops in Europe and China, bringing together 770 Chinese buyers and more than 1,000 European suppliers. These projects received co-funding from the European Commission.
The top three fastest-growing destinations were Croatia (+45.7%), Estonia (+35.8%), and Hungary (+25.1%), performing well above the EU average of 5.1%.
EU countries in the CEE posted a double-digit increase of 10.6%. Western EU countries enjoyed a 6.1% increase, while the Southern EU and Northern EU saw increases of 5.2% and 2.7%, respectively.
The ECTY was conducted in a fashion that would ensure that the tourism benefits would last through 2019 and beyond. In line with these expectations, forward bookings from China to the EU for January-April 2019 are up by 16.9% compared to 2018, well ahead of the 9.3% increase in Chinese bookings to worldwide destinations.
“The EU-China Tourism Year has been a big success, and we are keen to continue working with our European and Chinese partners to build on these results,” said Eduardo Santander, executive director of the ETC. “China is now the world’s largest outbound market in terms of travelers and expenditure, with Chinese travelers spending EUR 10 billion on travel services in the EU in 2017. ECTY 2018 saw an increased appetite for European destinations, which keeps growing now in 2019,” he added.
Further information about the ECTY is available here.